Monday, 20 November, 2017

Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen signals March interest rate rise

James Bullard says there no good reason why the Fed's balance sheet is so big Chance of March US Federal Reserve interest rate hike increases
Mae Harvey | 04 March, 2017, 01:00

The FOMC, which forms Fed policy, will meet March 14-15. The question is whether the official who matters most - Chair Janet Yellen - will add her own voice to that impression.

The implied probability of a March rate hike has surged to 74 percent, from just 30 percent at the start of the week.

The market is growing confident that the US central bank will lift its benchmark interest rate this month, encouraged by a host of remarks by Federal Reserve officials alluding to monetary tightening.

A feature in the world marketplace this week is rising US and world bond market yields, on ideas of increasing inflationary pressures and rising interest rates. The Atlanta Fed's revised estimate of Q1 growth inched up to 2.5% (as of February 27), based on the bank's GDPNow model - a modest improvement over the sluggish 1.9% increase in last year's Q4.

And New York Fed Chief William Dudley said the case for a rate increase has become "a lot more compelling".

"The main theme doing the rounds this week was the increasing hawkishness of Fed members, which clearly pointed to a rate hike in March", said TreasuryOne currency dealer Andre Botha.

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Stocks open lower on Wall Street
In the bond market, treasuries moved back to the upside following the pullback seen in the previous session. Personal income rose 0.4% in January, which was above expectations; while consumer spending slowed down.

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"I now see no evidence that the Federal Reserve has fallen behind the curve, and I therefore continue to have confidence in our judgment that a gradual removal of accommodation is likely to be appropriate", she said.

Policymakers, though, have hinted that heavy fiscal stimulus with the USA near full employment might overheat the economy, necessitating faster rate hikes. More data supporting the Fed's recent stance came out overnight, as USA jobless claims dropped to a 44 year-low of 223,000 for the week ended February 25, under analyst's expectations of 243,000.

Policy makers penciled in three quarter percentage-point rate increases for 2017, according to the median projection in forecasts released in December.

Rate hike expectations also weighed on the New Zealand dollar, which was on pace for its worst week in eleven against the greenback.

Gold prices dropped on Thursday as the dollar firmed on hawkish comments from US Federal Reserve officials that stoked expectations of a US interest rate hike in March. The unemployment rate is 4.8% and wage growth has edged higher to 3.2%, although well below pre-2007 rates of increase.

Underpinned by higher steel prices, the benchmark iron ore spot price has now risen 17.1% in 2017, extending its gain from the all-time low of $38.30 a tonne struck in mid-December 2015 to 141%. Brent crude, the Global benchmark, was up one-quarter of 1 per cent at $55.22 a barrel, while West Texas Intermediate gained 0.3 per cent to $52.75. That was the largest 12-month gain in almost five years and just below the Fed's 2% target for inflation.

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